On paper, La Grande is loaded.
Five returning all-state players, most of anyone in 4A. A team that in 2018 came within three points of upsetting Gladstone in the Quarterfinals, only lost 4 seniors. In 2019, the Tigers are stocked with upperclassmen. Those 17 Juniors that were on the 2018 roster, 8 of whom were linemen, are now seniors. In La Grande, expectations haven’t been this high since the programs prime in the 1970’s.
For the first time in almost 50 years, the Tigers are frontrunners.
The all-state selections returning to La Grande feature second team all-state RB Nathan Reed and WR Blaine Shaw, projected 2019 first-teamers who should rack up a lot of yardage for the senior heavy Tiger squad. Reed is also an essential part of the defense, a second team all-state selection at Linebacker last season. Also returning are Honorable Mention all-state DL Gabe Shukle and DB Zach Wiggins.
La Grande was a 7-3 squad last season with their two in-class losses coming to Ontario (14-35) in week 3, which they later avenged in a 49-12 week 6 blowout victory, and in the quarterfinals to Gladstone by the mere 3 points. Gladstone incoming junior kicker Mateo Burgos smashed in a 47 yard field goal as time expired, and left the Tigers with a tough four hour drive back home.
In 2019, we project the Tigers will be anywhere between 8-0 and 6-2, and be a top 5 seed come playoffs. Tough games against 2018 5A semi-finalist Pendleton in week 1, 2018 3A quarter-finalist Clatskanie in week 4, and 2017 4A state champion Cottage Grove week 7 are the only potential losses.
There’s no reason La Grande shouldn’t be in the 2nd round of the state playoffs this year, and the Semi-finals or beyond shouldn’t be out of the question.